Approval of constitutional amendments left several detainees and many wounded

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Photo: Asamblea Nacional.

Photo: Asamblea Nacional.

With 100 votes in favor, eight against and one abstention, the Plenary of the National Assembly of Ecuador approved the package of amendments to the Constitution, after an uninterrupted session of about 10 hours, from 07:30 on Thursday 3 December 2015. The 15 amendments adopted to the Constitution shall be sent to the Official Registry for publication. They shall be effective from then on.

The surprise of the day was the vote of ruling-party Assemblyman Fernando Bustamante, who decided to abstain. His was the only casualty of Alianza País, which was counting on getting 101 votes, along with its allies.

The only opposition lawmakers left at the time of the vote belonged to the Social Christian Party, and they left the room immediately after the results were read. In a show of protest and to reject the legitimacy of the session, other Assembly members chose not to attend and joined the demonstrators who had gathered near the legislative building.

Photo: Plan V.

Photo: Plan V.

After the results, members of President Rafael Correa’s party – which has an absolute majority in the Assembly – embraced, celebrated, and took ‘selfies’. They had installed a stage since the day before for the expected celebration outside the building, which remained surrounded by fencing and impressive police protection. Only supporters, invited by the President of the Assembly herself, Gabriela Rivadeneira, were allowed access.

While friction with the police had started early on, clashes between the riot police and opposition protesters became more intense as soon as the government majority vote became known.

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Photo: Plan V.

The incident left at least 24 detainees who were taken to the Flagrancy Unit of the Pichincha Prosecutor’s Office to be charged. There were also several injured, including Ecuarunari president, Carlos Pérez Guartambel and El Comercio photojournalist Diego Pallero; both were injured and beaten by police. Meanwhile, the police reported having taken to the Police Hospital at least 30 officials with blows and wounds produced during the fray.

The police used the cavalry, dogs, tear gas and even a late-model armored anti-riot van to break up the march of the indigenous peoples and militants of leftist parties, who began to throw sticks and various objects. Among the protesters were people with covered faces.

Photo: Plan V.

Photo: Plan V.

The police arrested at least 24 people, including representatives of social movements and university professor and former Assemblyman César Montúfar, who was released without charge at night.

The following day, on 4 December, the 21 detainees were sentenced to 15 days in prison and ordered to pay compensation to the police officers who were offended. They were accused of abuse (fourth class violation). Three more people will be charged with offenses, informed lawyer Ciro Guzmán, a former militant of the Popular Democratic Movement who is in charge of the defense of the accused.

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